Softball Signs Three for 2014-15

Coach Sullivan welcomes three signees for the Fall of 2014.
Coach Sullivan welcomes three signees for the Fall of 2014.

Nov. 13, 2013

Urbana, Ill. - The University of Illinois softball team welcomes three signees for the fall of 2014, Carly Thomas, Kate Giddens and Leigh Farina. The incoming class features players from across the country, hailing from Georgia, California, and Illinois, respectively. The Illini bring in a shortstop, a pitcher and utility fielder, and an outfielder, all of whom have a strong presence on the field.

Head Coach Terri Sullivan looks forward to working with the newest class of Fighting Illini, having this to say about each incoming student-athlete:

"Leigh has some of the most exciting physical attributes a young player could bring to our team, as she is both fast and strong. She is a threat to hit one out of the park and to steal a base. Her quick hands are apparent on offense and defense, and she will jump right in as one of the most athletic players on our team.

"Kate is a powerful right-handed batter with an aggressive mentality at the plate. She is a versatile and well-rounded defensive player with the ability to contribute in the infield, outfield and in the circle. Kate has a contagious and outgoing personality, and we believe she will develop into a strong leader for our team.

"Carly is a pure left-handed hitter who shows power to both right field and left field. She has an even-keeled disposition at the plate, and this is why she thrives under pressure. Carly gets great reads on the ball in the outfield and is a fun teammate to play alongside of.

"Kate, Carly and Leigh are competitors on the field and in the classroom. We are proud to have them joining our Fighting Illini softball family and look forward to seeing them break several records wearing Orange and Blue!"

Leigh Farina on Signing Day

Leigh Farina

Name: Leigh Farina
Position: Shortstop
Hometown: Rolling Meadows, Ill.
High School: William Fremd High School
Travel Team: Illinois Bash Gold

Leigh Farina, a shortstop from Rolling Meadows, Ill., is a three-year starter for Fremd High School, where she has led the Vikings to three-straight regional championships and the 2011 Sectional Finals (Sweet 16). At the plate, she hit .495 with eight home runs and 45 RBI in 2013, and sits in the top 10 in the Fremd single-season record books in nearly every offensive category.

Following both the 2012 and 2013 seasons, Farina was named First-Team Daily Herald Cook County All-Area, First-Team All-Conference Mid-Suburban League, a Top 100 Player by the Chicago Sun Times, and earned All-State accolades from the Illinois Coaches Association, including a First Team selection this past season.

"Leigh is the most physically talented two-way player we've ever had in the history of our program," said Fremd Softball Coach Jim Weaver. "She is an electric player capable of dominating a game with her bat as well as her glove. The sky is truly the limit for her."

In three years with the 16U/18U Illinois Patriots Elite (2009-11), Farina led her travel team to a pair of top-4 finishes at ASA Nationals, including placing second in 2011. After joining the 18U Illinois Bash Gold in 2012, Farina's team returned to 18U ASA Gold Nationals this past season.

"Not only does she have a cannon, but she has the quickest hands I've ever seen," said Bash Coach Jim Goranson. "As a senior this year, Leigh has become a real leader. She has done everything from being a compassionate teammate to being one who isn't afraid to get in a player's face who isn't giving the effort they are capable of."

Off the field, Farina excels in the classroom, being an Honor Roll student all three years at Fremd. 

Kate Giddens on Signing Day

Kate Giddens

Name: Kate Giddens
Position: Pitcher/Outfield/First Base
Hometown: Milledgeville, Ga.
High School: John Milledge Academy
Travel Team: EC Bullet Gold

Kate Giddens comes to the Illini from Milledgeville, Ga. A four-sport athlete at John Milledge Academy, Giddens has been a softball starter since eighth grade and helped lead the Trojans to the 2010 GISA Region 4 Class AAA Championship. She is a three-time First-Team All-Baldwin County player, a three-time all-region player, a two-time all-state selection, was named the Best Offensive Player in 2010 and 2012, and Best Defensive Player in 2013. Additionally, she earned the 2013 Captain's Award. This past season, Giddens hit .342 with six extra-base hits, including two home runs.

Gidden's High School Coach Kori Pickowitz said, "Her athletic and academic talent as well as her hard work ethic makes her the competitor that every coach wants on their team."

In addition to her high school team, Kate plays for the EC Bullet Gold. After leading her team to the 2011 ASA 16U Class-A Georgia State Championship title and a third-place finish at Southern Nationals, Giddens has continued to excel on her travel team. She received the 2012 University of Oklahoma Hustle Award, and batted .314 with 12 home runs in 2013. She also kicked off her career by being named the MVP of the 2009 Fall Southern All-Star Showcase.

"Kate is and has been an exciting, enjoyable and very competitive player for us," says EC Bullet Coach Greg Schnute. "She is going to play her hardest every inning, every game, and she is a delight to have on our team. She will be great for the Fighting Illini!"

Giddens is just as involved off the field, being named Homecoming Queen in 2013 and maintaining a 3.94 GPA. She is involved in several extracurricular activities, including serving as National Honor Society president, class secretary and treasurer, and as a member of the Fellowship for Christian Athletes and the yearbook staff.

Carly Thomas on Signing Day

Carly Thomas

Name: Carly Thomas
Position: Outfield
Hometown: Fontana, Calif.
High School: Los Osos High School
Travel Team: Southern California Explosion

Carly Thomas is a talented outfielder from Fontana, Calif. A starter for Los Osos High School, Thomas was named one of the top 100 recruits of 2014. Last season, she led the Grizzlies to an overall record of 20-5, batting second and hitting .512 with four home runs, six triples and 12 doubles, not to mention her 14 stolen bases.

"Carly is not only an unbelievable athlete but also a wonderful leader as well as a tremendous  person," said Los Osos Coach Mike Randall. "Carly is first to practice and last to leave. There is not a student-athlete that will out-work Carly Thomas. Carly is an invaluable asset to my team, and I expect great things from her this year and in the future. "

Outside of school, Thomas has played for several travel teams, including the 14U So Cal Athletics, the Corona Angels from 14U to 18U, and now plays for the 18U So Cal Explosion. This past fall, Thomas led the Explosion in RBI and averaged .538 at the plate.

"Carly is the type of player every coach dreams of having and opposing coaches hate to face," said Explosion Coach Brett Denio. "Carly has the ability to change the game with one swing of the bat. Offensively, she is a power hitter who also hits for average. Defensively, she covers a lot of territory in the outfield while not being afraid to lay out for a catch. She works hard both in the classroom and on the field. Illinois is getting a great kid from an equally great family."

Off the field, Thomas is a strong student, being named a Scholar Athlete in 2011, 2012 and 2013.